Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

British court decision on Saudi sales an internal matter

Adel Al Jubeir said UK procedures would be revised in light of the judgment

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir speaks during a press briefing at the Saudi Embassy in London on June 20, 2019. AFP
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir speaks during a press briefing at the Saudi Embassy in London on June 20, 2019. AFP

Saudi Arabia said it could not interfere in the internal affairs of Britain and America over arms exports following a British court decision that found against the country's licensing regime.

Adel Al Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, said that only the interests of Iran and its vows of "death to America" would be served by suspending sales but that in the British instance the issue could be addressed with revised domestic procedures.

“The decision by the court in the UK has to do with procedures for licensing, not any wrongdoing that took place,” Mr Al Jubeir said.

The court found the government had failed to properly assess the impact of the arms exports on the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is supporting the country's government against Iran-backed rebels.

“The coalition is an ally of the West and the coalition is fighting a legitimate war at the behest of a legitimate government to stop Iran and its proxies from taking over a strategically important country – so the only beneficiary of a cut-off of weapons to the coalition is going to be Iran.”

President Donald Trump was expected to veto a US Senate resolution that blocked his emergency authorisation of $8 billion in arms sales to Riyadh.

The British government said existing licensed exports would proceed but that new licence applications would be suspended while the situation was reviewed. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the High Court decision was being appealed.

"We disagree with the judgment and will seek permission to appeal," Mr Fox said in a statement delivered in parliament. "While we do this, we will not grant any new licences to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners which might be used in the conflict in Yemen."

Shares in Britain's BAE Systems defence and aerospace giant lost nearly 4 per cent of their value within the first few hours of the government's announcement.

As the US Senate prepared to vote on the resolutions opposing the sale of smart bombs, aircraft parts and other military equipment, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, pointed out the rising tensions with Iran. "Let's not cut ourselves off from our partners," he said. "Let's not undercut the administration at a time of such delicate diplomacy."

Mr Al Jubeir also dismissed a UN report into the killing of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the country's judicial system was delivering justice for the crime and that Agnes Callamard, UN extrajudicial executions investigator, was not an independent arbiter.

"The issue with the rapporteur is that she had inherent bias against Saudi Arabia. From day one she was saying Saudi Arabia was guilty, we don't recognise she has a mandate for this and her report is based on anonymous sources and she also had items in the report that were contradictory.

"A Saudi citizen was murdered by Saudi officials in the Saudi consulate and the prosecutors have completed the investigation and the Saudi judicial system arbitrates on this.

"I didn't find anything in the report that wasn't reported in the media or leaked by the Turkish authorities," he added.

Updated: June 20, 2019 09:19 PM

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